Reason for Summer Optimism, or the Lack Thereof

Note: I was working on a reaction to a recent John Hollinger article, when I noticed that longtimelistenerfirsttimecaller beat me to the punch.  Here's my take, but be sure to check out the longtimelistener's post (and subsequent discussion thread) as well.  -Exhibit G

On Monday I posted a quote from Chad Ford that essentially said that the Kings probably won't be spending money next offseason, even though the team will have cap space.  Given the economic conditions that the Maloofs are dealing with, it is a frustrating idea, but not altogether unbelieveable.

Yesterday John Hollinger made a similar statement (Insider) when ranking the Western Conference teams, saying:

Shell-shocked by increasingly horrific economics in Sacto and the woefully outdated Arco Arena, the Kings locked down financially while they wait to find out where their next home will be. If it's a new building in Sacramento, great, but if not, San Jose, Anaheim, Kansas City and others await with open arms. Either way, they won't spend a nickel without some certainty on this front.

Aside from mentioning the possibility of the Kings relocating (already a sure-fire way to earn the ire of Sacramento fans), Hollinger then adds his sunny disposition to his predictions for the Kings next season, saying:

The Kings did pick up a potential star in the draft in Tyreke Evans and a low-budget breakout possibility in Sergio Rodriguez, plus Kevin Martin should be healthier. That should keep them run-of-the-mill bad rather than historically awful, but optimists won't find a lot of ammunition here.

Hollinger seems to correllate the Kings financial situation with their possibilities for improved play.  But why?

I suppose that this whole debate would actually center on what Hollinger would consider an optimistic expectation for this season.  Our discussions have generally agreed that a 35-win season would probably be overly optimistic.  If that's what Hollinger is alluding to, then I have no problem with that.  This is a rebuilding team, and the turnaround will not be overnight.

However, if Hollinger is saying that the lack of an immediate turnaround is tied to a lack of spending, that is what I would have an issue with.  I'm willing to give Hollinger some benefit of the doubt, mostly because a correlation like that (or lack thereof) seems like it would be right in Hollinger's wheelhouse.  But I'd still like to explore the issue, because that seems to be a sentiment I've read a lot of lately around here.  I've read some reactions along the lines of "If only the Maloofs would spend some money," or "If the Maloofs have cap space, they better spend some money."  Contrary to how it may seem, though, you do not need to spend money on a big free agent to improve a team.

I spent some time re-reading jasonrp's post regarding bouncing back from losing seasons.  There are certainly examples of teams spending and bringing in free agents to help a turnaround, but there are also teams that spent very little.  The best example I could see was the Miami Heat.

Miami had the worst record in the league, largely due to injuries (specific, Dwyane Wade).  The team drafted Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers, and signed Jamaal Magloire for the veteran's minimum.  Wade was healthy again, and the team made the playoffs.

Before you attack the comparison, I am not trying to say that the Kings will make the playoffs next season, nor am I attempting to compare Kevin Martin to Wade.  The Kings in the West obviously have a different challenge ahead of them than Miami had.  Hawes is younger and less accomplished than Magloire (c'mon guys, he was an All-Star!).  Jason Thompson doesn't have the same feel for an NBA game as Udonis Haslem, at least not yet.  And Martin shouldn't be compared to Wade, not just because they have completely different games, but because Wade should only be compared to other players who are easily recognizeable by one name, such as LeBron, Kobe, or Kleine.

But the Kings have a roster of young, developing talent and a borderline All-Star (hopefully) returning to his pre-injury form.  Evans has a lot of potential.  We've got a new coach with an NBA pedigree.  I won't disagree with Hollinger that the Kings will probably be bad, but I will disagree that there is a lack of ammunition for optimists.  We will be lacking in the level of optimism that some teams may enjoy.  None of us are walking around saying, "This is it, this is the year we win the whole thing."    But when you're recovering from a 17-win season, the prospect of 25ish wins is plenty of ammo for long-term optimists.

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